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Monoprice Monolith Liquid Spark - By Alex Cavalli

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by ufospls2, Apr 4, 2018.
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  1. FangJoker
    I just ordered one. If I don't like it, I'll give it to a friend. I know a few guys that want to get into audio, but don't want to spend too much early on this journey and this would be a great amp for them to try.
     
    Hansotek likes this.
  2. Astonish
    Same lol
     
  3. leeperry
    any internal pics yet?
     
  4. smallcaps
    Also pulled the trigger. International shipping was $56 USD (!!!) Via DHL.
     
    PaganDL and Rattle like this.
  5. sahmen
    I just snagged one, although I also have a confession to make : I really don't know where or how I am going to use it. I already have the Liquid Carbon v1, among other amps, and I am waiting eagerly for the Liquid Platinum, which I am surely going to buy too... So you could safely say I really do not need the Spark... However, I just could not resist it at this price, for some reason, and have treated it as if it is a mush-have...

    Call this a weird kind of compliment I am paying to the Spark, almost in spite of myself... Not that it is not a great value, as an amp, but that is really not the point. This is indeed a strange hobby...
     
  6. antdroid
    Haha. I have mine in the cart and wondering why the heck I am even considering it. I have amps in every room already, and even 1 at work and a highly capable DAP, so really have no justification to considering this.... but I still kind of want it. Because the price tag is right.
     
    smallcaps and sahmen like this.
  7. smallcaps
    After picking up the Spark I realized I needed a DAC to pair with it, so off to Massdrop for an SDAC. My 2nd washroom still needs a setup, I tell myself.
     
    antdroid likes this.
  8. sahmen
    Well, may you have more discipline and self-control than I did, that is if that is what you really want :).
     
  9. hans030390
    I dropped this review in the actual gear section, but figured I'd post it here for convenience as well. Alex Cavalli contacted me directly and asked if I'd like to test and review a production-grade Liquid Spark prior to release, which I was happy to do.

    It’s a good day for anyone with an interest in inexpensive headphone amps! The Liquid Spark, currently available through Monoprice for a penny shy of $100, occupies the same market space as the Schiit Magni 3. I found the Magni 3 to be a great sounding amplifier, and it really set the bar for amps in its price range. I’m happy to say the Liquid Spark is a worthy competitor. (TL;DR at bottom.)

    The amps seem near identical in form and function. Both are solid state, have pre-outs, have a gain switch, are of a similar size, and utilize an external power supply. I had no issues driving my HD650 with ease on both amps, so they both have plenty of power to spare for about anything you might toss at them.

    That the two products basically do the exact same thing on a functional level is good, because it makes the review easy by allowing me to only focus on sound quality.

    If I had to generalize right off the bat, I’d say the Liquid Spark sounds a little more like a good tube amp, while still clearly not being a tube amp, whereas the Magni 3 sounds a little more like a good solid state amp. That said, they sound more similar than not, especially if you take a step back and hear their similar tone and presentation in a broad scope: slight warmth, agreeable treble, but close enough to neutral to not necessarily be called colored.

    The Liquid Spark has a more spacious, layered sound and gives the midrange more room to breathe as it wishes. It’s a little more laid-back sounding. Again, not too unlike a good tube amp here. The Magni 3 retains a common characteristic I hear from many Schiit amps in that it’s rather forward sounding and a little two-dimensional at times.

    However, the Magni 3 does benefit from its forward nature in that it’s a more dynamic and engaging sounding amp. While I’m likely to give the nod to the Liquid Spark for micro-dynamics and nuances, the Magni 3 excels with a sense of muscle. That’s not to say the Liquid Spark isn’t dynamic. It drives the HD650 without making it sound lean or strained, so it has plenty of weight to throw around on its own.

    Interestingly enough, I find the Liquid Spark to have slightly cleaner, tighter sounding bass. It took me a while to get over the Magni 3 sounding more powerful in the low end, a main contributor to a sense of macro-dynamics, but inevitably the lower octaves on the Magni 3 started to sound a tiny bit rounded and bloomy in comparison. Still, both have that characteristically clean low-end as you’d hope to find in a good solid-state amp, so I’m splitting hairs here.

    Circling back to my comments on the midrange, that’s where I really found the Liquid Spark to do what it does best. The Magni 3’s midrange and treble response can at times sound a bit strained or have the slightest sheen to it, despite being an overall warmer and very agreeable sounding amp. This is the sort of quality you really only notice in direct comparisons, so it’s subtle. The Liquid Spark, on the other hand, has more of an organic ease to the sound, giving everything a natural tone, timbre, and plenty of space to ebb and flow naturally. It has a more natural sense of space, captures reverb a bit better, and sounds a little more graceful overall.

    It’s that quality, along with the spacious, airy nature of the Liquid Spark, which reminds me more of a good tube amp. The downside is one might find the midrange and treble to be a bit softer or bloomier sounding than they would like. Nonetheless, I found the amp to never lose details and nuances, as its overall resolution was quite good and at least as good, if not slightly better, than the Magni 3.

    If I had to nitpick in one other, related area, it’s that the Liquid Spark’s airy sort of nature can at time give the sense that its background isn’t as clear or black as it should be. The Magni 3 does well in this regard. Though it would up the cost dramatically, perhaps the Spark would benefit from a LPSU?

    Overall, the Magni 3’s characteristics are a little more brute-force-like. This plays into its strengths (power, macro-dynamics, engagement, clarity, sharpness) but also its weaknesses (a little too forward, slightly bloomy bass, slightly strained mids and treble in specific use cases).

    The Liquid Spark seems internally work with more ease and less intense focus. Again, its strengths are the tube-like midrange and treble performance, clean bass, spaciousness, nuance, and so on. But those wishing for an incredibly sharp and focused sounding amp may want to look elsewhere.

    Personally, I’m a little fonder of the Liquid Spark’s presentation. It strikes a really nice balance across the board to my ears. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s outright better than the Magni 3, because tastes will play a big role here. Simply put, they’re both excellent amps with an insanely low price point. I’m still amazed at the sound quality both amps offer given their price relative to common offerings from even a few years back. Take your pick, and either will suit you well!

    TL;DR

    - Comparing to Magni 3, since they basically occupy the exact same space in market (price, function, etc.).

    - Spark is a little more tube-like, with a more spacious, layered sound, liquid mids and treble, and a more graceful sound overall. Better micro-dynamics. But some may find its mids and treble just a hair too soft.

    - Magni 3 tends to brute-force the sound more, being more forward, aggressive, having greater macro-dynamics, but also has the benefits of sounding more focused, sharper, clearer, and having a blacker background. But it does sound a little strained compared to the Spark.

    - Both have similar overall tone, i.e. slightly warm, agreeable, but not too far off neutral.

    - Magni 3 may have slightly more rounded bass.

    - Both are a steal at $100. Just pick what suits your preferences best.

    - Spark may benefit from LPSU, but you’re looking at a significant price bump then.
     
  10. Luckbad
    Glad my ears haven't failed me. @hans030390 knows what the crap he's talking about.

    I've tried the Liquid Spark with a linear power supply and it does indeed improve everything marginally, as one would expect.

    I have not yet tried my atomicbob Noise Nuke, mostly because I don't own this Spark and don't want to introduce it to that variable.

    The performance of the Liquid Spark at the price point has me very eagerly awaiting the Liquid Platinum.

    IMG_20181004_173410.jpg
     
    PaganDL and smallcaps like this.
  11. alphanumerix1
    Yeah its $65usd for Australia! Why is there only one option! Thats so expensive. I shudder to think how much shipping the liquid platinum will be :frowning2:
     
    smallcaps likes this.
  12. Jthompson300
    For those who have been using this already and have commented on noise, I am having a very hard time finding a decent budget amp JUST for my Audeze LCD-XC that has a black background and was wondering if you thought this amp is a good match.

    Of the amps that I have the Ifi micro Ican SE is pitch black but lacks on the musicality side of things and just seems hollow. If I go to the Burson soloist SL MK2 the buzzing drives me crazy on low level listening(in low or high gain) but sounds so much better than the Ifi when the buzzing is not noticeable.

    Any advice you can offer I would appreciate.
     
  13. Wildcatsare1
    I’m in total agreement, I haven’t found an ifi Amp that I didn’t find lifeless and flat, devoid of soul. While I haven’t heard the Spark or Platnum, I can say with confidence that I haven’t heard a Cavalli Amp that lacked soul.
     
  14. leeperry
    All this FOTM-prone freebies rave feedback is quite nice but still useless without internal pics [​IMG]
     
  15. Hansotek
    Here’s what’s under the hood. A4FDA67B-644D-4805-9BD5-233FB1239D5C.jpeg
    1267247A-364C-4D89-9BC6-4886D0F58E55.jpeg
     
    Mad Max, trellus, nick n and 5 others like this.
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